photo credit: Chattanoogapulse.com
There is often the feeling of “on your marks!” as we depart the Thanksgiving holiday in the US and head into Christmas and the New Year toting a giant To Do List . And as a woman, it appears to me like we are often in charge of creating the Holiday Magic – Shopping, Baking, Decorating, Sending Cards or Electronic Greetings, Wrapping and Sending Gifts, as well as creating holiday meals. And perhaps we are even hosting a party or doing volunteer work, all in addition to the full-time job many of us hold. It is exhausting just reading this list! Individually, I love these elements of Christmastime; I love shopping, I love decorating our home, I love picking out and sending cards to dear ones around the globe; I love cooking as well. But to squeeze these into a three-week window with visions of perfection and bliss is where this all heads horribly south for me. Now, I know there are a few folks who pride themselves on shopping throughout the year and setting up “The Christmas Factory” early, but I personally do not know very many of these highly organized and self-satisfied individuals.
A feeling of “Stop the Madness!” wells up inside me as I find myself counting the weeks and days prior to December 25th. So many of us worry that we will let down people who are counting on us if we don’t satisfy the entire list, so we drive ourselves like a mule team until zero hour. And rather than feeling any form of “Christmas Cheer,” we arrive at the big day in exhaustion and martyrdom with barely any energy remaining to truly enjoy the day we’ve prepared so hard for. Do you and I kick all personal care and boundaries to the curb as our sacrifice for the desired outcome? Is there no room for navigation and new choices that support a happy holiday for all concerned? I say there is! Who’s with me?
Let’s pull out that To Do List. On the first pass, I invite you to put a question mark by items you may want to downsize or delete. Check in with your gut on this. On the second pass, consider items which you could delegate to family members or loved ones. In addition, there are a lot of sites, shops and professionals to ease the burden too. And some of these activities, such as baking and decorating are fun to do with family and friends. When we drop the need for control and perfection, kids are especially game to join in. While It may require initial organizing, as time goes on these become new, helpful and memorable traditions. Best of all, we’re not the lonely martyr “making the magic happen.” As with most “have-to’s,” we are our own worst task master. Consider if you were to see your dear friend piling things on like you may be. Wouldn’t you implore her to ease off? Some may actually boast about how much they are doing with a group who go at the holidays in the same fierce manner. On the other hand, many have given certain things up years ago in order to enjoy the holidays with the rest of their family and friends. These savvy folks are a good resource for sharing their modifications and tricks which still allow for deep enjoyment, beauty and connection. Let’s join this group!
This December, my husband and I are currently living with my elderly father in Florida as we await the completion of our new home nearby. In addition, my two sisters live in the area. I haven’t lived near my family since I was eighteen years old. Other than vacations and occasional frenetic holiday visits, I have not experienced a regular cadence of family dinners or stopping by their homes in a long time. I would have missed this time of year, coming together to decorate Dad’s tree after losing my Mom in late August following the long and heart-breaking journey of Alzheimer’s Disease. Seeing my mother’s handwriting on all the boxes of Christmas decorations was wonderful as well as tearful. Mom was a big shopper and loved nest-building, creativity and beauty. In addition, she was a fabulous cook. We will be preparing many of her traditional and delicious dishes for Christmas, as we set the table with her dishes, stemware and table decorations which we enjoyed with her throughout many years. I am certain that many of you can relate to losing someone, missing them, yet still feeling their love and presence in certain items, traditions and most definitely in certain memories. All my Christmas decorations are packed within a storage unit. We currently don’t have our own home. It’s very freeing, and yet I look forward to interacting with memorable and meaningful pieces next year in our new home. This period is teaching me to enjoy what is before me and meld with the joy in the room, as well as within myself.
Retain the things that say “this is what makes Christmas (or whatever you are celebrating!) special to me.” The meaningful decorations, the special recipes, heart-stirring hymns or songs, attending an annual performance; you’ll you what it is for you. And while we’re at it, let’s ask for help as well as offer it. One thing that’s really driving itself home to me as we live with my father is how much easier things are and how unifying it is to come together for each other while still keeping sacred space for ourselves. We can miss so much of this special time as we hack away at one thing after another in a mindless haze of orchestration. I go back to the great reminder for any day of the year: You cannot pour from an empty cup. Fill up your cup with self-care and love. Focus only on the most meaningful, staying present and celebrating why you are actually doing what you choose to do. You are amazing, generous, and deeply loved! Thank you for all you do to brighten the lives of others. And thank you for striving to care for yourself so that you can be there for those you hold dear!